WhatsApp has announced that it is adding a layer of protection to the messaging platform’s users with a view of clamping down on those adding others to groups against their will with the aim of spreading propaganda, fake news or misinformation.
According to the company, this will “help to limit abuse” and keep people’s phone numbers private. The app will also now have an invite system which makes it easy for a user to limit which invites he/she can receive from group admins or other users.
This move comes on the wake of recent calls for limit to WhatsApp in many countries as it has become a powerful tool for communication which is also most abused and used in spreading fake news, especially during elections or politically charged periods.
The Facebook-owned messaging app recently launched a fact-checking service in India ahead of the country’s election. India is WhatsApp biggest market.
The country’s politicians have used the app to divide voters based on caste, religion or income levels.
Lack of control on who can add who on the groups has limited the participation of popular figures on the messaging platforms as they avoid being added into many groups without their permissions.
To activate the new protection, users can go to Settings, tap Account > Privacy > Groups then choose one of the three options regarding who can add you to a group text: “Nobody,” “My Contacts” or “Everybody.” “Nobody” means you’ll have to approve joining every group to which you’re invited, WhatsApp says, and “My Contacts” means only users you already know can add you to groups.
In the event that you change the setting to either “Nobody” or “My Contacts,” people inviting you to groups will be instead prompted to send a private invite through an individual chat. That way, you still have the option of joining a group even if the person inviting you isn’t one of your regular WhatsApp contacts. However, the invite will expire in three days if you don’t accept.
The move is just one of the many ways WhatsApp has improved the service. It has limited message forwarding, marked forwads with a label while it has also been reported to be testing a new spam identification system.
The settings will be available to users in stages. So keep updating your phone app.